“Gerhard Schrader had been feeling sick for a while, but he didn’t realize how ill he was until he tried to drive home. There was something wrong with his eyes. He felt like he was going blind; he could hardly see the road, and it was becoming difficult and painful to breathe. It was a struggle for him to get home. When he finally reached the house, he peered into the mirror through his glasses, straining to see his own reflection. He discovered with surprise that the pupils of his eyes had shrunk to tiny pinpoints.
Chemist that he was, Schrader quickly guessed what had happened. Schrader worked at IG Farben, at that time in 1936 the world’s largest chemical company. He’d recently completed the initial synthesis of a new compound — a clear apple-scented liquid. Its sweet scent belied its real nature, however, for while he now knew the chemical’s vapor must be quite toxic, he didn’t yet realize how dangerous it was, or how close he’d come to an agonizing death.
After a couple weeks in the hospital, Schrader returned to the lab just before Christmas, where he resumed work on his new compound — this time being just a little more careful. He soon realized his latest creation was incredibly toxic. Monkeys exposed to low vapor concentrations went into convulsions and died within minutes….”